Sunday, July 1, 2012

The eaglets have landed -- and they're big babies

The young bald eagles in Seven Mile Creek Park are flying well, but still dependent on their parents.

   It's been more than 10 weeks since the bald eagles on the Minnesota River at Seven Mile Creek Park began feeding their hatchling(s), but we hadn't been able to see the young in the nest on the other side of the river.
   They would have grown rapidly since then, reaching nearly a foot high three weeks after hatching and they should have attempted their first flights in the past couple of weeks.
   This weekend we went to see if we could get a glimpse of them -- a long shot considering the heavy foliage now blocking views of the river.
   And a long shot that they both would have survived this long. While two are often hatched, one sibling sometimes kills the other to get more food. And when an eagle takes its first flight, they will perish 40 percent of the time.
   Not far down the trail along the river, we heard loud high-pitched screeches, similar to, but louder than the sounds made by seagulls. Following the sounds brought an unlikely surprise.
   Peering through the brush along the bank, we could see two immature bald eagles perched on a large, partly submerged log just 25 feet from the bank. They were unconcerned about visitors, even those with a dog -- a sign perhaps of youthful inexperience.
   Even knowing how fast they grow, the siblings were surprisingly large.
   One of their parents was perched atop a cottonwood tree far across the river, next to the nest. The parents duties aren't over. For a month or more they will still provide all the food for the young eagles as they stay near the nest  and develop their feathers.
   After that, their hunting skills will have to be taught and sharpened over the remainder of the summer -- vital lessons if they are to survive the first winter on their own.

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